Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lessons From Lepers

How do you view yourself?  Do you have trouble believing you have a place in God’s heart and a purpose in this life? 

What about your view of others?  If someone doesn’t have the same income as you, or lives on the wrong side of town, do you think less of them than someone who makes more money and lives in an upscale neighbourhood?

I think anyone who speaks honestly will answer, “Yes”, to those questions at some point in their lifetime.  We’re all human, and these thoughts are part and parcel of the human condition.

But, a few weeks ago I came across a story in the Old Testament that taught me to re-think the, “Yes” answer.

You find the story in 2 Kings, chapter 7.  Here’s a bit of background…

Israel is suffering the effects of their rebellion against God.  The Arameans (enemies of Israel), having attacked one of Israel’s cities, are holding its occupants hostage.  Food is in short supply and people are becoming desperate.

Four lepers reside outside the city gates.  Lepers are considered highly contagious and “unclean”.   Anyone exhibiting signs of leprosy is banished from the city, forced to eke out a miserable existence by begging outside the city walls.

Life isn’t treating these lepers well.  The starving people inside the city don’t have warm, fuzzy, charitable feelings towards the beggars outside its gates.

The four lepers are trapped between the walled city and the attacking army.  They know they’re chances of survival are about as good as that of a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  In a fatalistic decision they decide to take their chances with the attacking army.

Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gates.  ‘Why should we sit here waiting to die?’ they asked each other.  ‘We will starve if we stay here, but with the famine in the city, we will starve if we go back there.  So we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army.  If they let us live, so much the better.  But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.’ “  2 Kings 7:3-4 (NLT)

In typical God fashion, He decides to use the four lepers, the “untouchables” of the Israelite population, as messengers.  He throws panic into the Aramean army.  When the lepers show up the Aramean camp is abandoned and overflowing with store houses of food, silver, gold, and other plunder.

They gorge themselves on food and wine, stashing away silver and gold.  But then they remember the plight of the walled city and their fellow Israelites.  Instead of holding a grudge for the way they’ve been treated by the Israelites, the lepers return to the city, telling the gatekeepers about their treasure.

“Finally they said to each other, ‘This is not right.  This is a day of good news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone!  If we wait until morning some calamity will certainly fall upon us.  Come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.’ “  2 Kings 7:9 (NLT)

Israel feasts that day because the lepers choose to share their abundance.

I love this story because three valuable nuggets are hidden inside.

  • If God can use four “unclean” lepers to save a city from starvation.  He can use you, too.  Never discount yourself because of your past, or your present.  You’re never so “unclean” that God can’t clean you up.  Broken lives are restored by the grace and mercy Jesus offers us through His sacrificial death on the cross. 

  • We live in a “me” centered society.  How much money can I make, how many TV’s do I need, how expensive a car can I drive?  We put our trust in material things, panicking and hoarding when we can’t get them.  At first the lepers go into hoarding mode, but then they reconsider, realizing it’s better to share the unexpected wealth than to squirrel it away from themselves.  This is true not only of material blessings, but also our time, talents, and faith.  We weren’t blessed with gifts to hoard them.  We’re meant to share them for God’s glory and His kingdom.

  • The third take away from this text is to remember not to judge people.  We can’t discount ourselves from being a messenger of God and we shouldn’t discount others simply because of the way they look, dress, or speak.  God will use anyone He wishes to put in your path to help you learn and grow.    Don’t be hasty to discount someone you feel “beneath” you.  They just might be able to teach you something.

Things To Think About…

Do you struggle to believe you matter to God?  Do you hoard gifts and blessings?  Do you judge people by their appearance before you know their heart?  Please share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Unexpected Answer To Prayer - Part 2

Last week I shared the story of an unexpected answer to prayer that lead to a job at a Christian radio station.

It’s now April and a lot has happened since that prayer was answered back in January.  So I'd like to carry on where I left off last week...

I accepted the position at SHINE FM with a start date of February 25.  I resigned from my existing company, giving three weeks notice, and planned to have a week off to relax before I started the new job.

But we all know life seldom goes according to plans.  Ultimately when we join forces with God we’re subject to attacks from the enemy. 

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)

On February 5, I was on my way to prayer group at my church to talk about the ways God was working in my life and the role the group’s prayer had played in it.

I was delayed en route when another driver attempted to complete a left turn in an intersection in front of me.  My desperate attempt to stop was futile and I slammed head on into the passenger’s side of his vehicle.  

I heard the crash, for a split second everything went dark, and then I was sideways in the intersection, clearly going nowhere fast!
The cool thing about God is He takes the nasty circumstances in our lives and ministers to us in the midst of them.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”  Romans 8:8 (NLT)

It’s amazing that in a town where I can count the number of people I know on one hand, the first police officer on scene was a woman who attends the same prayer group. 

A chaotic time of reporting, gathering information, towing vehicles, etc. ensued and when the dust settled she drove me to the church. 

I walked into the prayer room shaking, and they immediately sat me in the prayer “hot seat”, laid hands on me and prayed for the next half hour. 

The injuries that “might have been” have been limited to a stiff neck, a sore braking foot, and some nerve tingling on my back. 

“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.  I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don’t be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:26-27 (NLT)

The enemy tries to push our “hot buttons”, demoralizing us in any way possible.  You may find your peace is stolen as the vice of financial and emotional stress tightens around your throat.

I won’t lie, my first thought was financial.  How do we replace a nine-year-old vehicle without putting a strain on our monthly budget?  On top of that two weeks after the accident my husband’s car needed repairs to the tune of $1,200.  Then one of our cats became quite sick, stressing me out even more, and costing us $350 in vet bills.

But God is trustworthy and we can rely on Him to provide for us in all circumstances.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives.  Everyone who seeks, finds.  And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened…if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.”  Matthew 7:7-11 (NLT)

Our insurance covered the costs of a rental car while my claim was being settled.  Between the settlement for my written off vehicle and the commission I received when I left my job we had enough to pay the repairs on my husband’s car, pay the vet bill, and buy a cute little 2010 Kia Soul for me!  God is good!

Another distraction from God’s presence is busyness.

March and April have been filled with “time” challenges.  I’ve been going for physio/massage therapy twice a week (trying to schedule these outside work hours, so they don’t think I’m slacking off at the new job).I’ve spent a number of the evenings and weekends when I wasn’t at physio, shopping for a car (and we all know how not fun that is!)

I’ve been very protective of my prayer time with God, recognizing it’s vital to spend time with Him and to seek His presence.  I refuse to give up this time, so I’m now getting up at 5:30 so I can be at my office half an hour to forty minutes before I start work.  That time is my quiet time with God before the day begins.

It’s been a challenging two and half months but I’ve relied on God to see me through and He hasn’t disappointed, providing for us financially, spiritually, and giving me a sense of peace in His presence throughout the process.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Phillipians 4:6-7 (NLT)

Do you need prayer in your life?  Stay in close communication with God and He’ll surprise you with your own unexpected answer to prayer.

Please share your prayer stories by clicking the link below.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Unexpected Answer To Prayer

We’re all at different places in our prayer life.  Some of you are seasoned prayer warriors, others are new to faith and learning how to communication with God through prayer.
Regardless of where you’re at, everyone faces times of discouragement.  You don’t see the answers you’d like and you wonder if God’s listening.

Today I want to share a story of a surprisingly unexpected answer to prayer.  I hope it encourages you in your own prayer life.
Two years ago I married my husband and moved to the community where he lived.  I found it difficult to connect in our new church community because my life as a national sales manager with a medical supply company kept me away from home 75% of the time.

On top of that, winter hit hard this year in the form of multiple heavy snow falls, leading to miserable driving conditions every time I set out on a road trip.  By mid-December I was fed up!
What do you do when you’re fed up?  You vent your frustrations to God. 

I told Him how frustrated I was with my lack of relationships and involvement in the church, how I felt I wasn’t doing anything to serve Him, and how I was exhausted and done with driving in lousy winter conditions.
I felt the desire to pray our church’s theme for the upcoming year…Grow Up, Grow Together, Grow Out.

  • I prayed to “grow up” in God - for deeper relationship with Him. 
  • I prayed for my husband and me to “grow together” in community with our church family.  
  • I prayed to “grow out” in the community - asking God to show me where He was working right where I was and to show me where I could serve.
It seemed impossible.  I didn’t see my travel schedule getting any better in 2013, but I prayed anyway.

When you pray a prayer that’s God’s desire for your life you don’t have to wait very long for an answer.

“And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.  And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.”  1 John 5:14-15 (NLT)

Here’s the short version of what happened three weeks later…
  1. I felt the Spirit urging me to check job postings on our local Christian radio station’s website.
  2. I followed the urging and found a position for a Sales Manager (closing the next day) – I submitted a resume for the position despite the fact that I had no previous work experience in the broadcasting industry.  I left it in God’s hands.
  3. Less than twenty four hours later I was interviewed and completed an on-line profile assessment.
  4. Two days later I had a second interview in Calgary (four hours away).  Conveniently, I was already scheduled to be there for my existing work so was able to schedule the interview on the same trip.
  5. By the end of the week I was back in Edmonton talking salary and benefits with the General Manager of the broadcasting company.

Throughout the process I continued to pray and leave it in God’s hands.  If I wasn’t the right person for the job I didn’t want it!  God’s doing amazing work through the Christian radio stations around the province and I didn’t want to single handedly mess it up!  I continued to pray for God’s will in the decision making process.

I’m now seven weeks into the job and loving it!

Think about it…

  • Less than twelve hours to submit a resume
  • Three interviews/meetings with the potential employer in four days – one of which is four hours away where I’m already scheduled to work.
  • A management position in an industry where I have no previous experience.
  • All in the time frame of six business days.
How can that be anything but God?

When I prayed in December I didn’t ask God for a new job.  But here I am in a position at a Christian radio station that reaches over 200,000 people throughout the community on a regular basis!  And I’m home evenings and weekends so I can get connected at church!

Our God is amazing!  He answers prayers in completely unexpected and surprising ways.

This is just the start of the story.  I’ll continue the ongoing prayer saga next week.

“Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”   Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)

Has God answered your prayers in ways you never expected?  Please share your experience by clicking on “comments” below.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Thirty Second God Hits

Are you facing a stressful day?  We all have times when life is overwhelming and we don’t have the energy to make it through the day. 

Recently I injured my foot in a car accident when I tried to put the brake pedal through the floor boards in a futile attempt to avoid hitting a vehicle making a left hand turn in front of me.

My physiotherapist banned me from my running routine until my foot could heal.  After four weeks of inactivity I finally got the green light to start running again.

Following instructions to start off slowly I set the treadmill for 15 minutes.  It was great to be running!  I was excited.  I was energized.  I was pumped…for the first five minutes!

That’s when the lack of physical activity from the last four weeks kicked in.  I was gasping worse than an asthmatic in a forest fire!  There was no way I was going to make the fifteen minute mark!

The internal self-talk started.  Actually it was more of a “self-argument”.

“You can’t do it, there’s no way you’re going to make it.  There’s ten minutes left and you can’t breathe! 

“That’s ridiculous.  Of course I can make it.  I’ve done this before, heck I was running twice this distance before the accident.”

“Must slow down.  Not going to make it.”

“Have to make it.  I’ll never get back in shape if I don’t push myself.”

And then it happened.  The “Blog Thought”!  “If I can just make it to 15 minutes this would be a great example for a blog post.  If I don’t make it I’ve got nothing to write about.  (That’s right.  In the twisted minds of writers no life experience is exempt from becoming “blog fodder”.)

So I knew I had to continue, but how?  By breaking it down into minuscule goals. 

I couldn’t run for another ten minutes, but I could run for 30 seconds.  The timer ticked away…27, 28, 29, 30.  OK just run for another 30 seconds…29, 30…did it!  OK another 30!

Thirty seconds isn’t a lot but it was an achievable goal and I experienced baby step wins on the way to reaching my 15 minute goal.

Do you see the parallel between 30 second running goals and taking baby steps in the times when you can’t see what’s ahead in life? 
The times when you’re scared about the future
  • When you face a broken marriage or the loss of a parent
  • When you lose a job and don’t know how to start the hunt for a new one 
  • When you’re so sick from the chemotherapy treatments you can’t raise your head off the pillow
  • When you’re trying to help your child beat an addiction
Sometimes all you can do is cry out to God and ask for strength for the next 30 seconds, and the next, and the next.  God is faithful to give it to you.   

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

I did run my fifteen minutes that day and you can conquer 30 second segments in your life, too.  Remember 30 seconds adds up to 24 hours, then 48, then 72, then a week, a month, and a year. 

With each 30 seconds God imparts a little more of His gifts of grace and love.

Do you need a 30 second fix from God right now?  Cry out to Him in prayer.  He’s there for you always and He’ll respond with His incredible power and grace.


What’s the greatest challenge you’re facing in your life right now?  Where can you use a 30 second gift from God?  Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.